About two weeks ago I was surfing along RPGNow and came across a neat little supplement from a company called “Tabletop Adventures” (TTA). As you all know, the current running adventure is a Space Campaign, and so I am in need of new material to use in the next season.
I came across “Derelict Starships” rather randomly; I was just searching in an “others” section of some sort, and stumbled upon it. What’s interesting to note is that it makes no mention of specific system, setting (outside of space) or plot. It simply is concerned with derelicts, and nothing else.
So what exactly is this supplement? Well, TTA appears to have compiled a collection of descriptions for use in a game. A GM would select a compatible description, read it aloud to his players, and wholla! Description, atmosphere and mood; taken care of for the lazy GM. Being lazy, I love the idea.
The supplement is broken into a few sections; the “Bits” section which rhymes off a series of different generic sections/corridors for quick random use, and the “Shards” dealing with specific sections in a starship (Bridge, Engineering, tubes, etc). The Shards are the bulk of the supplement, making up 20 pages. Each Shard is 10-20 lines long, usually describes the local area quite well, and occasionally comes with traps/encounters should the GM wish to use them.
Additionally, there are two “freebies”: Description flashcards and a detailed discussion on body decomp in space (What the…). Neither of these seemed very useful, but a really bogged down GM might find some use for them (however, if you are that busy, maybe you should switch back to being a player).
Overall, the majority of the descriptions are well written and generic enough for most games. The originality is a little lacking as many of the descriptions feel as if they were lifted from a random Star Trek: Voyager episode. One real minus however is that some of the descriptions are a tad short, which I suspect would leave the players a little bored when trying to picture the scene.
The entire supplement is about 200 or so descriptions, which at first glance seems like a bargain at $11 (Canadian), but suddenly becomes less appealing once you realize the individual sections contain no more than 10 each. It would literally become description of the week very quickly if a GM actually relied on the supplement to aid his descriptive skills.
The artwork and page setting for the supplement is *very* professional; so much so that I actually forgot I was looking at an indie companies production. It’s clean, clear and very suitable for printing. Bound nicely, this would look good sitting open on your gaming table.
TTA does offer more of these “Bits” for purchase, however they seem exclusively focused on Fantasy settings. Each supplement runs about the same price, and features about the same level of content. This is quite disappointing; fantasy is so over played/done that free descriptions could be found anywhere. We want other settings dammit! A little digging did not reveal any other companies jumping into this niche, and likely for good reason. The margin for profit is likely low, and unlike other supplements, looses it’s usefulness after just a few games.
Overall, I think it is a good product, but too short and a little short lived for the cost. At $11, you could simply run to a used bookstore and grab 10 novels from a bin and get much more content. If you’re like me and forgetful, or you happen to have poor writing skills, this COULD be useful. Otherwise, I’d wait until they drop the price to $5 before picking any of them up.
A duffle bag sits on [or: floats above] the deck in an awkward position. Its built-in locking seal is still engaged. On its side you can see traces of what once was a name and number but years of wear and tear have worn it off to the point where it is unreadable. Only part of the crewperson’s number is evident—the last 4 digits were 6947. There is no indication of who owned it or who dropped it and left it in haste. [If the duffle is opened, the characters will find it is full of uniforms, women’s underwear, and a data pad. If this is investigated, it appears to have a series of video letters sent and received between a slender woman with black skin and her family and friends. They also find a tiny ceramic animal with a flowing mane.]